Surviving Nanowrimo # 2

I am back with encouraging news. You can write a novel in the month of November. It not only is possible but it’s do-able. Just sit down in your chair and go to work on November 1st. Before you know it, 50,000 words have appeared on your computer screen. A few cups of coffee and a daily shot of persistence and easy peasy.

Oh, you don’t drink coffee. You’re English. Well, maybe a cup of tea is the ticket. Whatever gets your subby-conscious out of bed is the thing.

So, where to begin on that fine November 1st morning since you didn’t prepare during October? Or you’ve spent the whole month debating over which idea to choose from when you have a bucketful of ideas.

I have an exercise that has worked very well for me. It’s called What-if, and it goes like this. Mosey over to the Monochromia blog and check out the photographs for the day. Pick two.

For example: Maybe I see a photograph of a woman holding a surfboard. In a second photograph, twenty people at a party stand around in small groups of three or four.

WHAT IF the woman was at the party, standing alone in a corner holding a surfboard?
WHY is she standing alone in the corner and with a surfboard? Gotta find out.

I, the author, walk into the room. Several of the folks give me a “hi-ya doing, Uncle Bardie?”

I nod my greetings and walk over to the woman. “What’s a nice girl like you doing with a big surfboard like that in a place this?”

She turns to me. “Waiting  for the Second Coming. You have heard of the Second Coming, haven’t you?”

“I thought it had already occurred at Ulu Watu.” I’ve always wanted to use Ulu Watu in a sentence. Now I’ve had my chance.”

“Oh, that was just a prelude.”

I introduce myself. She says, “Just call me Chad.”

“Chad?”

“Stands for Carolyn Hermione Allyson Deboit.”

THEN WHAT HAPPENED?

Across the room, a man in his early twenties,  looks at me. After a moment, he walks over.

“You okay, Sis?”

“You know I’m not.”

He gives me a challenge, but his sister continues, “You know how I hate these parties.”

WHAT IF he gets angry.

See how the process works. Keep answering those three questions and pretty soon you have a scene. Before you know it your answers have accumulated into two thousand words on the page and you have a character you can follow to who knows where.

Initially you might want to be in the photograph. However soon you’re going to disappear unless you are a character. The important thing is to let your imagination run wild like the mustangs who used to roam free out West. If you trust your imagination, you’re going to be in for a wild ride.

Uncle Bardie’s Spotlight Creator: Ray Bradbury’s Adventures in Writing

Once a week on Friday, Uncle Bardie celebrates the creativity in others by shining a Spotlight on a movie, a song or a creator. In honor of the upcoming National Poetry Month of April, this week’s Spotlight Creator is the Ray Bradbury. Here is a short documentary of Ray Bradbury and a review of his book, Zen in the Art of Writing:

Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury
Publisher: Joshua Odell Editions (August 1, 1994)

In Zen in the Art of Writing, Ray Bradbury shares the sources of many of the hundreds of stories, essays, plays and novels. They come from a vivid imagination that has continued to see things with the eyes of a child. At the heart of many of his stories is his childhood home of Waukegan, Illinois.

Unlike the Thomas Wolfe saying of “you can’t go home again,” Bradbury often returned home to Waukegan. His childhood years in that small Illinois town served as a source for many of his stories in the same way that Hemingway mined his youth in Michigan for his Nick Adams stories and Mark Twain used Hannibal, Missouri for Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. Waukegan was his Paris, his Oz, his Castle Rock. In Bradbury’s imagination, Waukegan became the Green Town of the Dandelion Wine stories. An encounter at age twelve with Mr. Electrico and his traveling electric chair inspired him to begin his Martian stories.

Though he was writing a story a week in those early years, he imitated the fictions of Edgar Rice Burroughs, H.G. Wells, Edgar Allan Poe and many of the pulp writers he was reading. It was his discovery of word association that broke him free from their influence. Bradbury made a list of words, took one of those words, and made that word a title for a story. Then he came up with memories and emotions for that word.

He turned the phrase :the old woman” into two stories: “There was an Old Woman” and “Season of Disbelief”. “The baby” became “The Small Assassin”. “The trap door” ended up as “Trapdoor” in Omni Magazine in 1985.

Bradbury relates how it cost him nine dollars and eighty cents to write the first draft of Fahrenheit 451. He shares how a visit to catacombs in Mexico caused his imagination to spit up the story, “Next in Line.” His stay in Ireland led to a number of Irish stories, including “The Haunting of the New.” He relates his love affair with skeletons and circuses and carnivals and dinosaurs and Mars, and how he never lost his childlike wonder for all things strange and exotic and out-of-the-normal.

In the chapter titled “Zen in the Art of Writing,” he shares his process for writing: Work, Relaxation, Don’t Think. He relates how the writer can learn from the archer of Zen and the Art of Archery by Eugen Herrigel. Then he reveals his unique approach to plotting. He writes: “Plot is no more than footprints left in the snow after your characters have run by on their way to incredible destinations. Plot is observed after the fact rather than before. It cannot precede action. It is the chart that remains when an action is through. That is all Plot ever should be. It is human desire let run, running, and reaching a goal” (p. 152).

Zen in the Art of Writing encourages the writer, and anyone pursuing his chosen dream, to never give up. Persistence pays off. If we’re putting in the work, there will be a reward down the line. His advice is: Do the work for the joy of it. Don’t worry about the destination. Love the process.

micropoem for the day: a hole in a tree

Often I use photographs to trigger my subbyconscious to get to work to come up with a story or a micropoem or a blog post. Many of these photographs have cropped up on a blog called Monochromia. Monochromia features black and white photographs from a variety of excellent photographers. No matter what, there will be a photograph of something interesting that has a story that needs telling. Today’s micropoem was not inspired by Monochromia but a photograph downloaded on my laptop for wallpaper. I just wanted to give a shout out to the site for the wonderful work they feature. It’s a favorite blog.

a hole in a tree
Alice went down that hole
a squirrel appears